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Are You A Social Advisor or a Social Salesperson?

4 min read

Modern Money

Bruce Milne, executive vice president at Socialware.

When do you advise clients to start thinking about death planning? Have you broached this subject with your own loved ones? Not easy questions to process, are they?

As with many things, understanding the appropriate time to have these discussions with clients is both personal and widely varied depending on client preferences and generational differences. A recent Bloomberg article got me thinking about this topic specifically as it highlighted that many millennials aren’t currently purchasing life insurance, nor do they consider it a priority. Of course, this is partially due to younger generations marrying and starting families later in life; however, it also serves as a reminder of the role social media plays in helping financial professionals educate and advise certain consumer segments, particularly those who that may not be actively looking to make a purchase.

A new viewpoint for a new generation

What if firms viewed social media not as a chance to sell to younger prospects, but instead an opportunity to educate and build a relationship with them? According to the article, in 2012 only 18 percent of 18-29 year-old adults had life insurance — a massive 45 percent drop from the industry high point roughly 30 years ago. When I was in the life insurance business, we called this “selling to a latent pain,” meaning that young people did not have a sense of urgency about insurance as the consequences were presumably a long way off, and there was little value to them to have insurance as their debts and responsibilities were still low.

Clearly a traditional sales program isn’t going to drive sales for this demographic. Insurance and other financial instruments become interesting to them when it becomes an “active pain,” when they have debts, responsibilities and some capital to invest. So we need to nurture relationships with these individuals until their circumstances require our help.

What about a more public relations-style approach that positions industry brands as a resource so this generation can take in information at their pace and in their language? That can lead to long-term relationship building, customer loyalty, and branding, so that when it becomes an active pain to discuss financial services and insurance, they will reach out to us.

This isn’t to say advisors or firms should stop existing sales and marketing programs — far from it. The time-tested rules of marketing are no less true today than they’ve ever been. Firms should consider how social can best be used to get the right message to the right individuals at the right time to help inform an audience comprising individuals who are naturally skeptical of anyone they perceive to be “selling” to them. For these individuals, a targeted content distribution and curation program can serve to support both long-term relationship building and education, while also supporting sales goals.

Is it Social Selling or something else?

We explore how to effectively do this in our recent blog post, Advisor Lessons: Building A Practice Via Social Media, which touches on what I consider the three core points to social selling.

Effective Social Selling Means:

  1. There’s no replacement for quality content
  2. It’s important to understand what your audience wants
  3. Being a trusted resource requires reciprocity, not broadcasting

Of course, in the highly regulated world of insurance and finance this is often easier said than done. Becoming a trusted resource to any audience — especially one that receives a ton of information through multiple channels every day — is no small feat. Yet a robust social media platform can make it easier by providing capabilities designed to help you get a pulse on your audience, to schedule consistent engagement opportunities, to maintain a content inventory, and much more.

Getting out there and engaging with an audience who has a latent pain is daunting; more so when working in an industry with stringent compliance and regulatory requirements. Perhaps it’s time to consider whether the best approach to securing a sale is not ‘selling’ at all. You might be surprised to see how unresponsive prospects take note when you start employing the right mix of personality, compelling, educational content and social tools available to you.

Bruce Milne draws on more than 20 years of software and financial services industry experience as he leads Socialware’s services, marketing, sales and product strategy functions. Before joining the company, he served in executive roles at CA Technologies, Hyperformix, Vignette, and Fulcrum Technologies.

Socialware provides software and services for financial advisors, insurance agents, and commercial bankers to securely and compliantly identify, develop and deepen relationships using social media.